World’s top 16 darts players head to Milton Keynes this weekend
The £160,000 tournament will be played at a new venue in 2015 and, with £50,000 to the winner, there’s a strong field.
If you’re thinking that it hasn’t been a year since we last saw the Masters tournament you are absolutely right. Having been played in Edinburgh in November in both 2013 and 2014 the tournament has not only moved location but has also been switched to February.
James Wade is the reigning champion having won the tournament less than three months ago. Can he retain his title? Keep reading for our preview of the 2015 Masters.
First major tournament since World Championships
With the previous Masters having been in October the world’s top 16 has a familiar feel to it. 14 of the players who took part at the Royal Highland Centre are in action this weekend and only Justin Pipe and Kim Huybrechts have fallen out of the world’s top 16.
Despite his defeat in the semi-finals of the Worlds, the man to beat remains top seed Michael van Gerwen. The Dutchman came close to a second world title earlier this month but was defeated by eventual champion Gary Anderson in a high quality semi-final at Alexandra Palace.
Van Gerwen lost 11-9 to Mervyn King in the semis of the Masters in November but will hope to get his 2015 off to a good start in Milton Keynes. He is just 8/89 to beat Wes Newton in round one.
Phil Taylor came within a few darts of adding a 17th world title to his impressive career haul earlier this month but couldn’t quite overcome the impressive Gary Anderson in the final.
It’s been a funny few months for Taylor with some tournament wins punctuated by disappointing exits to players he should beat. He looks to have a decent draw here but could once again face Anderson – this time in the semi-finals.
The Scotsman had a superb 2014 and his £113,250 prize money edged out Michael van Gerwen to top the 2014 standings based on performances in European Tour events, Players Championships and UK Open Qualifiers.
Anderson’s annus mirabilis was rewarded last week when he picked up four awards at the PDC Annual Awards Dinner. As well as ProTour Player of the Year the 44 year old also won the PDPA Players’ Player of the Year, the PDC Fans’ Player of the Year and the PDC Player of the Year.
The Flying Scotsman is up to number three in the world and has a great chance.
The main challengers
While he may have failed at the World Championships again it was a decent end to 2014 for James Wade who won the Masters title in November in a spectacular match against Mervyn King. The left-hander came from 9-2 down to win 11-10 in a thrilling climax; a match which was recently voted the PDC Televised Performance of the Year.
In a twist of fate, Wade will meet King again in this year’s opening round. After the draw PDC Chairman Barry Hearn said:
“Last year’s final between James Wade and Mervyn King was one of the most thrilling deciders we’ve ever had and it’s ironic that, due to their rankings, they’ll meet again in the first round.
“That’s just one of a host of tasty ties which will be played over the weekend in Milton Keynes.”
Wade is the 2/5 favourite while King is available at 15/8.
Raymond van Barneveld is seeded six places higher than he was at the Masters in the autumn and could go well here after his run to the semi-finals of the World Championships. Adrian Lewis has been in mediocre form over recent months and may come a cropper against 13th seed Ian White (a 12/5 chance) while Brendan Dolan is 7/5 to knock out fifth seed Peter Wright in Saturday’s opening match.
The 2015 Unibet Masters starts at 12.45pm on Saturday 31 January 2015.